Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize cancer diagnosis and therapy. Advances in protein engineering and materials science have contributed to novel nanoscale targeting approaches that may bring new hope to cancer patients. Several therapeutic nanocarriers have been approved for clinical use. However, to date, there are only a few clinically approved nanocarriers that incorporate molecules to selectively bind and target cancer cells. This review examines some of the approved formulations and discusses the challenges in translating basic research to the clinic. We detail the arsenal of nanocarriers and molecules available for selective tumour targeting, and emphasize the challenges in cancer treatment.